Wednesday, 14 May 2014

Visit to Upper Hutt Budget Advisory Services

Myself and Sue Leader from Upper Hutt Budget Advisory Services.
Photo by the Upper Hutt Leader.
Last week I visited the Upper Hutt Budget Advisory Service to find out what the impact will be of the extra $22 million the government has allocated to the services nationwide. I met with Sue Leader who took us through the services the team provides to the community, and the current challenges for people financially.

One of the first points Sue made was that they see all sorts at the Budget Advisory service - everyone from low income earners to young couples who are doing ok. They aren't necessarily struggling to make ends meet - many are after advice on how to structure their finances should they take up, for example, full-time education or get a mortgage. The extra funding means that Sue will be able to work full-time and provide after-work support for low income earners, who are unable to get out of work to make an appointment.

Secondly, a major problem that the service confronts is the presence of predatory loan sharks and peddlers, who intentionally make their interest rates, penalties and fees obtuse. They target those already in a desperate financial situation. We discussed the Credit Contracts and Financial Services Law Reform Bill, which is currently before parliament. This Bill aims to curtail these sorts of predatory loan sharks and other credit providers who intentionally go out of their way to exploit those on lower incomes. The government is also kicking off a one-year pilot of low-interest loans through more responsible lenders. This should greatly cut the social damage these lenders are doing.

Sue and her team provide an excellent service to the community. One of her final points was that the Budgetary Service can often help people most just before got themselves into financial trouble, for example when someone has been laid-off but faces major liabilities. A great visit to a great service for the people of Rimutaka.

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